The Sales Apprentice 2009: Sales Training Tips From The Hit TV Show, Week 11, The Interviews

So I guess the biggest question tonight was which, if any, of the interviewers would you want to be interviewed by? Indeed, if their behaviour tonight was representative of their general leadership styles in the workplace which of them would you actually want to work for?

But, real or not, representative of their day-to-day style or not, this was prime time TV and they had to make a spectacle of it. What’s more, of course, the whole premise of interviewing at the end of the hiring process is ludicrous; many of the issues that are discovered at this late stage should have been weeded out at first interview stage… preferably on the phone thus saving you valuable time and money.

Not many sales training tips tonight but plenty of ideas on how and how not to hire yourself a high performance sales team. And not many surprises with the outcome of tonight’s show either…

The four interviewers this year were Claude Litner, Sir Alan’s former “global trouble-shooter”;  Karren Brady, the managing director of Birmingham City Football Club; Bordan Tkachuk, the chief executive of the computer and IT firm Viglen, one of Sir Alan’s companies; and Alan Watts, hot-shot city litigator who acted for Sir Alan in his successful proceedings against the Daily Mail for libel.

Their mission, apparently, break through the bragging and the bluster and get to the truth.

Perhaps the interviewing wasn’t as outrageous as last year but, none the less, if you were setting up a business and you had never recruited anyone before and you chose to adopt some of these interviewing approaches for finding the right salespeople for your business you could very quickly land yourself in very hot water indeed. Headed by Claude Litner, this was a master-class in bullying your interviewee by being overly personal, “I wonder if you’re delusional”, I’ve read your CV… it’s fair to say that they’re exceptional, exceptionally bad” , “You’re talking nonsense, you’re talking nonsense aren’t you”, “Don’t be daft”, “You’re little miss perfect aren’t you”, “You seem a little immature”…

But at least this was balanced out by Karen, in particular, who demonstrated some powerful interviewing skills, building rapport, listening to her interviewees and asking strong developmental questions to really find out what the candidates had to say. She wanted to find out what made the candidates tick and from what we saw did a good job of it.

Sales leadership tip: Getting the right salespeople into your business is essential if you want to build high performance sales teams and get great sales results. Yes, it’s important that you challenge individuals under interview but it is also essential that you get them talking and really find out what drives them and makes them tick. Behaving like Sir Alan’s attack dog is no way to recruit great salespeople as it simply backs them into a corner allowing you to see little more than how they behave when someone threatens them.

Here are 5 top tips for recruiting sales superstars by getting the best out of sales interviewees…

  1. Do your preparation. Develop a standard set of questions.
  2. Listen and ask developmental questions.
  3. Ask evidence based questions because anyone can talk theory. You need to understand what they have actually done not what they say they can do.
  4. Don’t divulge too much about your company at first. Find out what they know.
  5. Be tough and challenging but not rude. Do not personalize it.

What did we learn about the apprentices from these interviews?

Kate prefers to work with men. James looked like he was going to cry most of the time. Lorraine was not confident about her CV and “accidentally” added an extra year onto her current job to pad it out. Yasmina had exaggerated the turnover and the profit of her current business. Debra was accused of being hated and swearing at work and said that she had never had so much negative feedback in a day.

In the board room…

“James I have taken on board what you said, there is nothing wrong with being friendly… I think you’re a corporate man… that don’t exist in my business, with regret you’re fired.”

And James was gone and we were left with 4 girls…

“Lorraine. You think you’re good at sales yeah?… You can’t keep bleating about that hard upbringing all the time… you had altercations with people… (she said she had learnt from the show)… Lorraine you might have to take that with you now, I have to balance what is suitable for my organization so I am going to have to say to you, you’re fired…”

And there were three…

“Kate. You’re in the final.”

So the last place was between Debra and Yasmina. “If I tell you that there is nothing between you. It is a very, very, seriously tough decision that I have to make…  Debra you should be proud of yourself. I’ve made my decision and I wish you the very, very best of luck and I know you’re going to be very successful in the future. Debra you’re fired. You keep in touch.”

So we were left with Kate and Yasmina, the two you could have picked for the final 6 weeks ago. Who do you think will win? Roll on Sunday.

Sales interview tips: If you’re currently interviewing for a new sales role, here are 6 quick tips for interview success…

  • Do your research.
  • Identify the key skills you think your interviewer will need and think of specific examples where you have demonstrated these skills.
  • Take evidence of your results with you.
  • Know your figures.
  • Prepare some questions.
  • Close Close Close.

For more tips on succesful interviewing read this Sales Interview Techniques article now.

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